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Fly Safe: Prevention of Loss of Control Accidents

Fly Safe: Prevention of Loss of Control AccidentsSeptember 27- The FAA and General Aviation (GA) group’s #FlySafe national safety campaign aims to educate the GA community on best practices for calculating and predicting aircraft performance, and operating within established aircraft limitations. Impairment may cause a pilot to exceed these limitations and lose control of the aircraft.

Are You an Impaired Pilot?
Of course not, you may say. But, impairment doesn’t just cover illegal drugs and alcohol. Fatigue and over-the-counter or prescription drugs can lead to impairment, too.

  • Have you flown tired, because you’re eager to get home, thinking you’ll rest later?
  • Have you had a drink at dinner, and thought you were fine to fly home?
  • How about your cold medicine? Did you know it can cause impairment too?

It’s important to know the risk of taking risks with your safety and the safety of those who fly with you.

“Fit to fly” means free of ANY impairment, including drugs, alcohol, or fatigue.

What Do the Regs Say?
The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) require full fitness for flight. You must be well-rested and free of distraction, and you must be free of drugs and alcohol.

“Eight hours bottle to throttle” is a minimum. Do not fly if you feel a little bit off. The FAA does not hesitate to act aggressively when pilots violate the alcohol and drug provisions of the FARs.

Fatal Results

  • According to the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, between 6 and 14 percent of pilot fatalities are alcohol related. The FAA calculated those statistics by analyzing blood and tissue samples from pilots who have died in aviation accidents.
  • Further analysis of pilots who died in an accident shows some used prescription drugs such as common sleep aids and cold remedies, without realizing that these drugs could make them unfit to fly.
  • A number of studies have found that a pilot’s performance can be impaired by only a few drinks, even after the pilot’s blood alcohol content (BAC) has returned to “zero.” In fact, these lingering effects can be detected up to 48 hours after consumption, and they can leave you at increased susceptibility to spatial disorientation, hypoxia, and other problems.

Do You Need Help?
The Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS) is a recovery program for pilots that major airlines and pilot unions support. More than 5,500 pilots have undergone treatment for alcohol use or dependency since 1975 and have been returned to the cockpit. Most pilots enter the program through self-disclosure.

General aviation pilots may not have access to HIMS, but there are a number of effective community programs available. Please work with your personal physician to identify what type of treatment would be good for you. Self-help groups such as Rational Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous can be a critical source of support and treatment.

It may be hard to admit that you need help, but you can recover. Find treatment, stick with it, and don’t fly until you are safe to be in the cockpit.

And Finally…

  • Let your aviation medical examiner know every medication you take on a regular basis.
  • Make sure anyone prescribing medication for you knows that you are a pilot.
  • DO NOT FLY if you are feeling sleepy, “out of it” or jittery.
  • DO NOT FLY if you are using illegal drugs.
  • DO NOT FLY if you have recently consumed alcohol.
  • GET HELP for drug or alcohol abuse.

Make sure you are fully fit to fly so you and your passengers reach your destination safely.

What is Loss of Control?
A Loss of Control (LOC) accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen because the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and may quickly develop into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.

Contributing factors may include:

  • Poor judgment/aeronautical decision making
  • Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action
  • Intentional failure to comply with regulations
  • Failure to maintain airspeed
  • Failure to follow procedure
  • Pilot inexperience and proficiency
  • Use of prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs or alcohol

Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our Fly Safe campaign. Each month on, we’re providing pilots with a Loss of Control solution developed by a team of experts. They have studied the data and developed solutions – some of which are already reducing risk. We hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.


Did you know?

Last year, 384 people died in 238 general aviation accidents.

  • Loss of Control is the number one cause of these accidents.
  • Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight. It can happen anywhere, and at any time.
  • There is one fatal accident involving LOC every four days.

Learn more
Learn more about the FAA’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Program. It is designed to keep all of us safe.

Help is available. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and Rational Recovery are two valuable resources that are available in many communities. 

The HIMS program is specific to commercial pilots, but its website has good information on the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse.

The NTSB has published a Safety Alert about the dangers of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

The website has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics.

Check out the 2016 GA Safety Enhancements (SEs) fact sheets on the main FAA Safety Briefing website, including Flight Risk Assessment Tools.

The WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program helps pilots build an educational curriculum suitable for their unique flight requirements.  It is based on the premise that pilots who maintain currency and proficiency in the basics of flight will enjoy a safer and more stress-free flying experience.

The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) is comprised of government and industry experts who work together to use data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies to reduce the risk of accidents in GA.

An FAA fact sheet outlines GA safety improvements and initiatives.

The GAJSC combines the expertise of many key decision makers across different parts of the FAA, several government agencies, and stakeholder groups. The other federal agencies are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which participates as an observer. Industry participants include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Flight Instructors, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, and the aviation insurance industry. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also participates as an observer.

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